I respectfully submit that John Rosemond’s conclusion in his Dec. 2 Life, etc., column “ No payoff for pushing academics in pre-K” that pre-K is “a complete waste of children’s time and energy” is not consistent with scientific findings.
Rigorous studies show that high-quality early-learning programs increase children’s cognitive and behavioral skills, preparing them to succeed as they enter our K-12 system. Rosemond’s contention that the benefits from early learning programs “fade out” over time is also not consistent with scientific findings.
A recent study (Dodge, Yu, Ladd, & Muschkin, 2014) of North Carolina’s pre-K programs found that children who are fortunate to have been born in a county where and when the pre-K program was generously funded demonstrate better academic outcomes that do not fade out and last at least through the end of elementary school. These outcomes include higher reading and math test scores and lower grade retention and placements into special education.
Perhaps Rosemond assumes that pre-K programs are simply K-12 education moved to an earlier point in life, and he wants young children to be allowed to be young children. He might not be aware that early childhood experts such as North Carolina’s John Pruette have designed pre-K programs to be developmentally appropriate and to incorporate holistic approaches in the design of curricula.
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Or perhaps Rosemond is considering only that stereotypical two-parent family where the 4-year-old spends the entire day with a full-time, stay-at-home mom who provides love, care and cognitive stimulation that is better than any pre-K program could provide. That family rarely exists anymore, even among higher socioeconomic groups.
Finally, scientific studies show that high-quality pre-K programs benefit all groups of children but bring extraordinary benefits to groups that otherwise could not afford high-quality preschool. Thus, high-quality pre-K has the potential to close the so-called achievement gap.
I urge our state policymakers to continue to support and expand access to high-quality early learning programs in North Carolina.
Kenneth A. Dodge
Director, Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Durham
The length limit was waived for a fuller response.